I support my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), who so ably moved the new Clause, and I ask the Minister to look at the problem again. What is to be done with a surplus farm house which is only temporarily surplus? It is a practical problem, well known in the whole of agriculture, to which we are trying to find a solution.
There are a number of ways in which a farm house can become temporarily surplus. My hon. Friend has already cited one or two, and I can think of several others. A farmer may take the opportunity to buy for his son an adjacent farm that happens to have come on to the market perhaps because his son wants to farm it later or against the day when the son gets married. But the farm house is not wanted now, so what is he to do? The sensible thing, if he were allowed to do it, would be to let the farm house for four or five years to a person like those mentioned by my hon. Friend who wanted to take a farm house while looking for something more permanent. At the end of the lease the farmer could obtain possession if his son wanted it when he got married.
However, he cannot do that, so he has two other alternatives. If he sells the house he has parted with it for keeps, and if he makes the mistake of redecorating it first he becomes liable to the capital gains tax. So the only safe thing to do, to be absolutely certain that he can get possession when it is wanted for his son or any other member of the family, is to leave it empty, deteriorating as the months go by. But empty farm houses do no good to agriculture or anyone.
I hope that the Minister will apply his mind to the problem so that between us we may try to arrive at a sensible solution to this practical problem, which everyone knows must be solved sooner or later.